Listen to me Marlon provides the same amount of intimacy with its subject as can be enjoyed by reading a well-written diary – the unfolding of the actor through the film and subsequent learning about the actor by its audience, reminded me of something that fellow actor Richard Burton said in his own diaries when he posed the question, “who are the private recordings of one’s life – be it on tape or on paper – written for?”. Is it being written, or in this case recorded, with an audience, a readership, in mind? Is it an honest account written in the confines of one’s own privacy, or has it been influenced by the dishonest nature of a public persona? A subtle tingling accompanied me throughout the entire documentary – is this the real Brando?
Because this would change the film indelibly, as it would the viewers’ thoughts on the film. If this was his own honest private ramblings, recorded, found, and used to narrate a documentary of his own life, then anyone who watches this film can say he has gotten to know the man, and can be proud of getting to do so in a remarkably extensive, personal, and informed way – and there has been and could be no better Marlon Brando documentary. Even the scenes that play out and the stretches of tape that were somewhat hard to swallow expose a person who fans of Brando surely wanted to see behind the icon: the man behind Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire or Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront – wholly different from the characters he plays, but wholly representative of the actor we’ve always wanted to imagine him being.
Read at Unsung Films: On the Waterfront.
The documentary follows the flow of Brando’s recordings, naturally, and so delves into small details and sometimes goes off on poetic tangents, But the filmmaker places additional focus on the apparent main events in the actor’s life – his time spent with Stella Adler, who moulded and shaped his approach so that method acting placed him in stark contrast with other popular actors of his time – the honesty and realness in his acting hadn’t yet become mainstream; the viewers also find themselves immersed in his familial relationships, his incessant flirting and unparalleled effect on women, his activism and involvement with the Black Panther Party and various native American issues… The documentary closes on the sad death of his daughter.
What the film does, I think, is construct and then solidify a base upon which we can build up an understanding of who Brando really was. For those who don’t know his films, haven’t watched him in character and haven’t seen his interviews, he represents a kind of myth – questions are thrown like “Is he really the best actor to come out of Hollywood?” or “Is he really that attractive?” to which the answer, of course, remains a shaky and uncertain one. Listen to me Marlon travels into the heart of the enigma and offers a sturdy explanation of the Brando myth.
Watch the trailer for Listen to me Marlon here:
Listen to me Marlon at IMDb
Listen to me Marlon at Wikipedia
Listen to me Marlon film’s website
Listen to me Marlon (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb